Hapag-Lloyd broadening base with Europa 2

By Tom Stieghorst

Hapag-Lloyd Europa 2 kitchenHamburg, Germany-based Hapag-Lloyd Cruises is making a push to broaden its passenger base beyond the German-speaking countries with the debut of its newest ship, the Europa 2.

A luxury line with four small ships, Hapag-Lloyd has drawn guests primarily from Austria, Germany, Switzerland and other areas where German is the native tongue.

Now Hapag-Lloyd hopes to appeal to cosmopolitan professionals with the means to choose a luxury cruise.

"We want to target the younger generation and all these people who are still working and [get them to] bring their families on board," said Michael Steffl, newly appointed international sales manager at Hapag-Lloyd.

The line is especially targeting cruisers in the U.S., U.K., Belgium, the Netherlands and Australia for new business.

The Europa 2, which debuted May 10, is a big event for the company. The $360 million ship is its first newbuild in more than a dozen years. The all-balcony ship is 50% larger than its predecessor, the Europa, and has modern touches ranging from WiFi to rainfall showerheads.

A hallmark of the ship is its spaciousness. Designed for 516 passengers, the 42,830-gross-ton ship has more space per passenger than ships from several other luxury lines. Suites range from 301-square-foot Ocean and Veranda suites to the 1,066-square-foot Owner's suite.

The ship has eight restaurants, six bars, an all-weather pool and a demo kitchen for cooking instruction equipped with high-end Miele appliances.

Hapag-Lloyd Europa 2 spa suiteIn profile, the Europa 2 looks similar to other new ships in its segment, such as the Silversea Millennium class or Seabourn's Odyssey class, ships that carry 382 and 450 passengers, respectively.

The Europa 2's beige and blue interiors are modern and spare, in a style associated with European design taste.

The target customer for the ship has determined some of the features that make it stand apart, Steffl said.

For example, seven of the 251 suites are built as family apartments, where parents and children can live in two separate areas, connected by a door and a shared balcony.

Unlike some luxury ships, the Europa 2 has dedicated space for toddlers, kids and teens, and a shore excursion program has been developed with family concerns in mind.

Children under 11 sail free, while those ages 12 to 15 pay a supplement of $60 a night.

Itineraries have also been planned to appeal to the Europa 2's targeted younger demographic. Many of its Mediterranean cruises this summer are only seven days in length, although they can be combined into a 21-day cruise that doesn't repeat ports of call. "It's for professional people who have only a short break out there," Steffl said.

The Europa 2's service delivery will be more casual than the Europa's, offering more specialty restaurants and flexible dining times, compared to the classic rooms with fixed meal times on the Europa.

The formal Captain's Dinner on the Europa is omitted on the Europa 2.

Previously, Hapag-Lloyd has reached out to non-German speakers with a handful of bilingual cruises each year. Europa 2 will strive for a more international atmosphere, and English will be the ship's second language.

English will be used for ship's messages, travel documents, menus, daily activity programs and safety instruction as well as enrichment lectures and excursions on 10 to 12 cruises each year.

"Hopefully we can increase our international share. It will be tough, but we're very optimistic," Steffl said.

Lacking the budget for a big ad campaign, Hapag-Lloyd will rely on other marketing methods.

Last fall, Hapag-Lloyd produced a 78-page, full-color brochure in English, its first. It has cross-marketing initiatives planned with select brand partners, such as Miele, Jaguar and Land Rover.

For Europa 2, it is paying travel agents a bonus 2% commission on bookings for new 2013 sailings, on top of the standard 10%. And it has under development a travel agent B2B platform that will include training sessions, marketing materials and direct mail forms.

Currently, Hapag-Lloyd operates a U.S. reservations system with Kartagener Associates, a New York travel marketer that represents the line in North America.

Company President Henry Kartagener said Europa 2 is a good fit for cruisers looking for an expedition ship that's small, intimate and has good service. He said being on a ship with German speakers should be a nonissue for most Americans.

"Germans who cruise on this ship happen to be affluent, well-traveled people and I would say 99.9% of them speak English fluently," he said.

Hapag-Lloyd will be at Tour & Travel Exchange, an event for suppliers and agents beginning May 30 in Scottsdale, Ariz., Kartagener said. The line hopes to gain a better foothold in the U.S. market.

"They're fully aware of the fact that if they want to see significant growth on their ships it can only come from North America," he said.

Follow Tom Stieghorst on Twitter @tstravelweekly. 

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